Fire board faults decision to move administration

Published on Wed, Oct 26, 2011 by Jeremy Schwartz

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North Whatcom Fire and Rescue (NWFR) officials want to move the fire district’s administrative offices closer to Bellingham after a service consolidation with Fire District 4, but NWFR’s fire commissioners have issues with the plan.

At their October 20 meeting, the commissioners expressed concerns with NWFR officials’ plan to move the district’s main offices from station 63 near the intersection of Birch Bay-Lynden and Blaine roads to district 4’s station 12 in Bellingham, located off the Mount Baker Highway on Britton Road. The offices of NWFR’s fire chief, assistant chief and training chief have already been moved to station 12.

NWFR fire commissioner Bill Salter said NWFR fire chief Tom Fields had told the commissioners that only the training division would be moving to station 12, not all the administrative services. Salter said Fields should have been more upfront with all the commissioners before the move was started.

A Blaine or Birch Bay resident having to drive to Bellingham to speak with NWFR administration in person could be too much of a hassle, fire commissioner Rich Bosman said. It doesn’t make sense for a fire district in northern Whatcom County to have administrative offices in Bellingham, he added.

Fields said he had discussed the issue with NWFR’s fire commissioners and that the decision was to gather the administrations of NWFR and district 4 under one roof. He said 99 percent of the meetings he attends are in Bellingham and that the Birch Bay station struggles with room as it is.

Fire commissioner Larry McPhail generally agreed with the other commissioners that keeping the headquarters in Birch Bay would be best, but said all these issues have to be discussed further with Fields. The commissioners agreed to let Fields’ office stay at station 12 until his retirement on January 1, 2012.

It will be the board of commissioners’ decision where the offices reside. Fire officials assured the board that the chief would be willing to meet with residents in Blaine or Birch Bay if desired.

“We’ll do whatever the [commissioners] want us to do,” Fields said.